School t-shirts

While cleaning out my youngest son’s clothing drawers,  I found a shirt he got last year in kindergarten. On the front it says, “I love school.”

I put the shirt in the throw-out pile.

When I asked my son what he thinks about staying home with me instead of going to school, I expected him to say something like, “What would we do?” or “Could I play my DS all day?” but instead he said, “Miss first grade? I can’t miss first grade. Everyone is going to first grade. That’s why I had graduation!”

School indoctrinates kids that school is good. It’s like any organized religion. It’s just that the federal testing guidelines are god.

21 replies
  1. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I agree with you that the school system indoctrinates both students and parents alike into believing that it is the norm, and therefore the only route. But I wouldn’t have thrown out the T-shirt. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to love school because there can be lots to love. It’s an experience that can be very enjoyable.

  2. redrock
    redrock says:

    ok, I get that homeschooling can be good for some students, but I cannot understand why homeschooling done by one or two parents will open kids to a wider array of experiences than school. School is not 24 hours… there is plenty of time for doing stuff not offered in school. And sometimes a kid might not be interested in lets say… Math unless exposed to it. So the kid will not choose to do math when being homeschooled and will simply miss out on it. Interests are triggered by seeing a lot of stuff, and having school and other activities maximizes the exposure. I realize that now many will respond and say: but we go to events and activities offered in our homeschooling community… yes, you might do that, but not all parents do it. This assumes that the parent doing the homeschooling is indeed qualified in terms of knowledge and emotionally to do the homeschooling. And I am convinced there is more indoctrination in homeschooling due to limited diversity in a local home environment as compared to school. Sure schools have vast margins for improvement, not saying here that all schools are great, but neither are all homeschooling situations.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Well, I think that’s the really tough question. We know the best answer is to have customized schooling, with unlimited budged, by a non-parent who is professionally trained in how to customize education to a single child.

      But that’s not realistic for most people.

      So then we are faced with the question of what is closer to this model, an untrained parent or a school that is not doing customized education.


      • Mandi
        Mandi says:

        I disagree that this is the ideal situation. The highest rates of literacy in our country were during the one-room school house era, when dozens of students were taught in a mixed-age classroom by a 17-20 year old teacher. Professional training, customized education, etc. just cost more money and while they may certainly work (like the private tutors that wealthy families enjoyed as well), I think there are far simpler solutions for families who don’t want to pursue homeschooling.

    • Tanya
      Tanya says:

      Some comments for your readers…

      “sometimes a kid might not be interested in lets say… Math unless exposed to it.”

      Math is everywhere in real life. Home education does not mean excluding subjects. The role of the parent is exposure and support – introduce your child to many different subjects and things in life, then support them with resources. Some things you will skim, some things you will study greatly. Each child is different. As for math in particular, basic math skills are easily learned without a single lesson just by simply living life in the home education environment. Further math skills can be embarked upon in any number of ways – tutor, self-study, or community college. Pretty much all subjects can be covered this way. And in the age of the internet, anything you could possibly want to know is practically at your fingertips.

      “there is plenty of time for doing stuff not offered in school.”

      This isn’t always the case with the vast amout of non-school time required for homework, projects, and school-related activities. These activities also disrupt family time – to the point where we need specialists to tell us to eat dinner together as a family because we might not otherwise get that family time.

      There is also the problem with children who resent the forced learning style of schools and then refuse to do anything outside of school requirements that even smells like learning – even if it would be fun and fall in their area of interests. In other words, for some children, school kills the natural curiosity and drive to learn.

    • Tanya
      Tanya says:


      If your son wants to go to school, there may be no harm in allowing him to. Part of home education is that the student gets a say in how his education unfolds. If school is interesting and fun to him, it may not thwart his natural curiousity for learning outside of school to follow his own non-school interests. As he gets older and school requirements become more time-consuming, he may decide school inhibits his real learning at home. This approach also gives you, Penelope, more time to work on your confidence; but when you write about your child/ren specifically, you are already thinking and talking like a home educator.

      My path to home education has actually been the opposite of yours. My son is 5, I have been studying home education since he was an infant. I am confident that children can and do learn in the home environment. What I sometimes worried about was whether that learning would translate into usefulness as an adult. You, Penelope, answered that question for me with your in-depth study of Generation Z and their roles as future adults in the workplace. So, thanks for that.

  3. Paul
    Paul says:

    I just want to thank you for starting this section of your website. My wife and I have a 1 year old that we plan on homeschooling; I’ll be interested to read your further insights on the subject.

  4. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    What about the social aspect of school? So much of life seems to hinge on being able to relate & get along with others. How does one address that when the only people around are basically family memebers? What about the joy of a child playing in the school yard with their buddies? Just giving you some food for thought…..

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I think about this topic a lot. I totally agree with you that most of life hinges on social skills.

      In my family a lot of us have Asperger’s. Which is why I’m certain that people do not learn social skills in school. Otherwise, people with Asperger’s would learn. So I’m not convinced that typically developing kids need to be in school to learn to pick up social cues.

      On the flip side, I have a son who does not have Asperger’s who absolutely loves being with other kids. And I worry a lot about taking him out of school because of this. We live pretty far away from homeschooler groups. So I’m not sure how I could replace that social interaction.

      Does anyone have insight here – am I missing something?


      • yatesc
        yatesc says:

        Just because some kids (e.g. those w/ Aspergers) don’t develop social armor via public schools doesn’t mean that nobody does.

        I recognize that anecdotal evidence is the worst kind. I used to work for homeschool curriculum developer, albeit not as an instructional designer. In my personal experience, homeschooling your kid is a great way to develop a bright, inquisitive child with poor social skills that his/her peers will see as weird. Now, if you think that a kid will have poor social skills _anyway_, or you don’t have a problem with that, go for it.

        All of the curriculum developers that I’m aware of have some measures in place to develop social skills alongside knowledge skills. Some arrange in-person meetups, others mandate extracurricular programs, and so forth. This is done _specifically_ to address the ‘weirdness’ problem.

        Obviously, kids with Asperger’s aren’t always incapable of learning social skills. But the fact that some of them don’t learn them in school should not be taken as evidence that schools don’t teach them. Schools teach reading, but not every kid who goes to school can read (sadly).

        tl;dr: You should re-evaluate your certainty.

      • Paul
        Paul says:

        I got to this link: from The Innovative Educator that you linked somewhere else on here. The tl;dr version is, why the hell would you want your kid to be “socialized” in a standardized, one-size-fits-all educational institution? Isn’t that exactly what you’re trying to avoid? Everything that you’ve written on “Gen Z is going to rule the world” makes me think not.

        • yatesc
          yatesc says:

          “…why the hell would you want your kid to be “socialized” in a standardized, one-size-fits-all educational institution?”

          Homeschooling is like putting your kid in a bubble. Less exposure to suffering, yes, but at the expense of weakening their defenses long-term.

          • Lori
            Lori says:

            “Homeschooling is like putting your kids in a bubble.”

            Completely untrue. Homeschooled kids belong to 4-H, scouts, clubs; they participate in every kind of sports and academic team; they attend co-ops; they play with neighborhood kids; they’re in children’s chorus and children’s symphony and children’s theatre .. It goes on and on and on.

            It is absolutely ridiculous to think that publicly schooled kids are better socialized than hs’ed kids. Homeschooled kids not only mix with kids their own age, they mix with kids and adults of all ages doing all kinds of activities. My kids are homeschooled and they are social ninjas.

      • Tanya
        Tanya says:

        “I have a son who does not have Asperger’s who absolutely loves being with other kids. And I worry a lot about taking him out of school because of this. We live pretty far away from homeschooler groups. So I’m not sure how I could replace that social interaction… Does anyone have insight here – am I missing something? ”

        Homeschoolers do not have to just associate with other homeschoolers. Surely, your son has friends that live closer to you than the homeschooling group – who are probably his current school peers. Who has he been playing with this summer? Your son may not be hanging out with them during school hours, but there are evenings, weekends, and holidays.

        That is not to say that you can’t travel for homeschool group activities either. I think you wrote somewhere that you travel 2 hours for cello lessons. A homeschool group should have the same importance if it is beneficial to the child. Not all homeschool groups are created equal, but if you find a homeschool group that is a good fit for your children and they gain something from it, then, yes, you should be taking them.

        There is also the possiblity that after further investigation, you may learn that there actually are other homeschoolers that DO live closer to you than you previously thought – they just might not have formed a public group yet. (You could do that though when you find them!) Getting to know the local homeschool groups is the best way to find these people – speak to other moms in the homeschool groups you do find, attend local homeschool conferences, search for local on-line homeschooling groups (often found on Yahoo! groups). Many homeschool groups are happy to talk to moms who have questions about homeschooling.

        A final note – socialization isn’t just playing with other kids, or just other kids your age, for that matter. As your children get busy with their learning and passions, they will socialize in the REAL world with people of all differents ages, gender, and background. We do not socialize as adults with just peers our own age, don’t expect your children to. Having friends to spend time with is important, yes, and should be given priority just as other aspects of home eduction, but having same-age friends is only a fraction of the whole picture of socialization.

        Your friend, Ms. Neilson, addresses the socialization issue in her post. Read her links and search out other homeschooling socialization information on-line and from homeschoolers until you feel comfortable with it. Involve your son for ideas of how he might meet this need to spend time with friends. That’s what we do as home educators, we research the information until we get it, then we brainstorm with our children and each other about how to meet our children’s needs.

        P.S. My “anecdotal evidence” of homescholers is that they are not weird – none that I have met anyway. And anyone that has ever commented to me that homeschoolers are weird are often not able to elaborate why they think that because they’ve never actually gotten to know said homeschooler, just thought he looked/acted weird in some way.

  5. Mike
    Mike says:

    I am a teacher in a public high school for about 10 years. And while some kids get a good education, a lot do not. I totally would home school my kids.
    Public school is a failed institution.
    Actually, it is more communist than anything else. And we all know how efficient communism was.

  6. Ann
    Ann says:

    Homeschooling, just like anything else, is what you make it. You are the parent. You decide. When something isn’t working, you change it. If you need social interaction and you are way out in the middle of nowhere, get a Skype-pal. Connect with people in online homeschooling forums and set up a Skype “playdate”. Traveling is another good way to enter social environments. Get creative. Scouting organizations, church groups, civic groups, library groups, are all not “homeschooling” groups but offer some social environments. Honestly, I think our kids socialize plenty: Scouts, choir, homeschool co-op, ice skating, church, field trips, etc. There is enough contact with diversity that encourages them to deal with it, but not constant exposure to inappropriate role models (like ill-behaved children their own age.) Our family includes well-educated parents and grandparents who can easily cover any subject offered through high school. We also are eclectic homeschoolers combining theories of unschooling and Charlotte Mason. We don’t use crappy materials (like textbooks written for complete idiots.) We use real books by real authors and experts. We have a lot of free play. A lot. The kids compete on FIRST robotics teams. They write stories ON THEIR OWN FREE WILL. They love to learn! They have learned how to shop, cook, clean, and a multitude of other skills. They like to be able to move quickly through material or a little slower, if necessary. A bonus? The kids love spending time with each other and with other family members. One thing I have noticed with homeschool groups is the desegregation of grades/genders/ages when we get together. The kids, at least in our circles, really like each other. The idea of not associating with someone because of age/gender/brand names/race/you-name-it is just not there. They all talk to each other like actual persons. What’s not to love?
    I thought I loved school… for a long time. What I’ve realized is that I really love to learn and engage with others who love it, too. In my experience, that’s the ideal of school, but not the reality. Our family’s singular goal with homeschooling is to produce children who have their creativity, love of learning, and self-respect intact when they are ready to be independent (which they will be.)
    I dislike the notion that there is one path: school, college, job. There are many paths to success and excellence. The trick is finding the right one for you and your family.

  7. redrock
    redrock says:

    well, communism was certainly in many aspects a failed experiment, in education it was highly successful. The literacy rate in communist countries (such as for example Cuba) is significantly higher than in non-communist countries of the same economic standing. And probably higher than in many western non-communist countries. The number of russian scientist of high standing is staggering. Please note that i am not defending the communism itself, but it has not been a failure in terms of education. Unless you see education as a means to produce entrepreneurs…

  8. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    First of all, home schooling is not for everyone. There is a place for public schools, as there is equally a place for home schooling.

    Although I am certain that there are people that abuse their right to home school, there are many of us that take our children’s education quite seriously.

    For the past year, I have had the opportunity to home school three of my four children. Prior to home schooling, all of my children had attended public schools. It wasn’t necessarily a ‘bad’ experience, but educationally speaking, we expect more.

    We absolutely loved our experience and have no intentions of revisiting another public school.

    Have my children learned more educationally in the last year than their peers? Without doubt! But I do not say this as an arrogant home schooler with something to prove, but rather as a realist that can see the bigger picture.

    My kids have a one-on-one teacher that will invest the time and energy necessary to help them understand their subject matter with greater clarity than their counterparts. We are allotted the opportunity to slow down, and as mentioned above, skim subjects at our discretion.

    My kids hate math. Yeah, I said it. So you can rest assured that they’re learning mathematical concepts just like every other kid out there; perhaps just a little quicker and with a deeper understanding.

    As far as socialization goes…again, it’s all up to the parent(s). If you’re a hermit, your kids are not going to be out there playing soccer or hitting museums. It is YOUR responsibility to provide socialization as a home schooler. Our calendar is so bloated that I have to scale back activities just to have a little breathing room! However, this life works for us and we love it.

    This is a very personal decision and deserves some serious thought. Your children will be with you ALL OF THE TIME! If you’re not kid-friendly and get irritated easily, don’t bother. No one learns in that kind of environment.

    Also, it’s wise to be realistic with your expectations. Clearly define your goals and be real with your level of commitment. Home schooling is meant to nurture a child’s learning experience, not create a wedge between parent and child.

    I know that I’ve made the right decision for our family. I hope that you’re able to make the right one for yours. Great luck to you!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Kimberly, all the homeschoolers talk in this way, like you wrote:

      “Home schooling is meant to nurture a child’s learning experience, not create a wedge between parent and child.”

      And it’s really nice and beautiful and everything. But I don’t get how that happens, really, in every-day life. Why are there no fights about math vs. the Wii? What about the dads who secretly think the moms are too undisciplined to effectively homeschool the kids? Why are there no days when the mom has PMS and she wants the kids to go outside in freezing snow to leave her alone?

      Where are the parenting disasters for homeschoolers? If I don’t see those it all starts to look unbelievable in some ways.


      • Tanya
        Tanya says:

        I think that was Kimberly’s point – if you are a parent who will have constant battles with your child, your child may be better off going to school because homeschooling doesn’t work well when that wedge is driven between parent and child.

        I read lots of personal stories about homeschooling before making my decision. There are parents who have come to burnout, had tough days, PMS days, whatever. Bad days happen, but if it becomes a pattern, they take it as a sign that things aren’t working, and they make adjustments accordingly. Homeschooling parents work very hard to make the homeschool environment fun and interesting and flowing easily. There WILL be hiccups along the way, but the ultimate goal is harmony in the home so as to nurture the child’s learning experience. As a homeschooling parent, you have the luxury and freedom to review how things are going and make adjustments along the way. Sometimes all that is needed is a little break from daily routine. You would have the freedom to take the day off for something fun or even take a literal vacation to provide a little self-care and reconnection for everybody.

        If you were one of the parents who spent the entire summer looking forward to the first day of school, you wouldn’t even be considering homeschooling.

        So, there may be fights over math vs wii, the farmer may secretly think you’re too undisciplined, and you will have PMS days. But then you will work out an understanding/agreement with your kids about the place of math and wii in your home, you will talk to the farmer, he will agree to not secretly judge you, you will agree to stop assuming he is, and then you will pamper youself on your PMS days so as to minimize collateral damage on your family. There, see, now you’re good to go. =)

    • Zellie
      Zellie says:

      Hey Penelope, those PMS days with the kids in the snow are FINE. Being too undisciplined to get out of bed and feed the kids is not. Some parents have a lot of conflict with their kids and feel they could never homeschool them. You don’t seem to feel that.

      The kind of homeschooling disasters you talk about do occur. That’s just life, just like parenting, but if the experience is primarily disastrous, probably homeschooling is not a good fit for the family.

      The Wii is a learning killer in my opinion. The thought of playing distracts from the wandering mind looking for something to do. If you are an unstructured type of homeschooling mom or need the kids to be self-directed much of the time, the kids need to be “free” of the draw of the Wii or TV, etc. This enables them to be creative and devote their minds to projects. As Wii is already part of your kids’ lives, I highly recommend that it be limited after 3 or after 5 or after dinner or some period that you choose. Fighting about these things will get you nowhere.

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